Obama’s Chief of Staff pick is one of the biggest recipients of Wall Street money in Congress


Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) with Sol Schatz of the VFW, Thomas Lonze of the State of Illinois, James O’Rourke of the American Legion and Sen. Dick Durbin discussing the Welcome Home GI Bill. (Photo courtesy of congressional website)

(CNSNews.com) – President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for White House chief of staff is one of the biggest recipients of Wall Street money in Congress, according to a Washington, D.C.-based “money-in-politics” watchdog group.

The Center for Responsive Politics has issued a report highlighting millions of dollars in campaign contributions that Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) has raised from individuals working in the hedge fund industry, private equity firms, and large investment firms.

Emanuel has raised more money from individuals and political action committees in securities and investment businesses than from any other industry.

This comes after a presidential campaign that saw Obama frequently criticize Wall Street and blamed lack of government regulations for the economic crisis that hit the country in mid-September.

Read moreObama’s Chief of Staff pick is one of the biggest recipients of Wall Street money in Congress

Deportation reaches all-time high

The pace of deportations of illegal immigrants from the Pacific Northwest has reached an all-time high.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 10,602 people from Washington, Oregon and Alaska in fiscal 2008, which ended Sept. 30. That’s a 37 percent increase over fiscal 2007 when 7,688 illegal aliens were sent back to their home countries, according to an ICE press release.

Read moreDeportation reaches all-time high

Hundreds of small firms to go bust by Christmas


Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, is being urged to do more to help small businesses

Hundreds of small firms will go bust by the end of the year if ministers fail to deliver quickly on their pledge to increase bank lending, business leaders have warned.

Despite repeated calls for action from Gordon Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling, it emerged that companies were still suffering from banks doubling overdraft charges and increasing interest rates.

The squeeze on bank lending puts huge pressure on the Government amid public expectation of a return for its £37 billion bailout with taxpayer cash.

Abbey yesterday increased rates by half a percentage point and Mr Brown was facing further embarrassment today as the nationalised northern Rock was expected to axe its tracker mortgages.

As Business Secretary Lord Mandelson prepared for a grilling by the House Of Lords, it emerged he had been personally warned by business leaders yesterday that firms were facing bankruptcy before Christmas.

Read moreHundreds of small firms to go bust by Christmas

Government black boxes will collect every email

Home Office says all data from web could be stored in giant government database

Internet “black boxes” will be used to collect every email and web visit in the UK under the Government’s plans for a giant “big brother” database, The Independent has learnt.

Home Office officials have told senior figures from the internet and telecommunications industries that the “black box” technology could automatically retain and store raw data from the web before transferring it to a giant central database controlled by the Government.

Plans to create a database holding information about every phone call, email and internet visit made in the UK have provoked a huge public outcry. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, described it as “step too far” and the Government’s own terrorism watchdog said that as a “raw idea” it was “awful”.

Read moreGovernment black boxes will collect every email

National road toll devices to be tested by drivers next year

Trial could lead to £1.30-a-mile charges

Hundreds of drivers are being recruited to take part in government-funded road-pricing trials that could result in charges of up to £1.30 a mile on the most congested roads.

The test runs will start early next year in four locations and will involve fitting a satellite-tracking device to the vehicles of volunteers. An on-board unit will automatically deduct payments from a shadow account set up in the driver’s name.

Paul Clark, the Transport Minister, confirmed yesterday that the trials would proceed despite previous statements from the Government suggesting that it had abandoned the idea of a national road-pricing scheme. In 2004 a feasibility study considered a range of possible prices, up to £1.30 a mile. It said that the highest rate “would be paid by only 0.5 per cent of traffic”.

The on-board unit could be used to collect all road charges, such as congestion charges in London and Manchester and tolls for crossing bridges and using new lanes on motorways.

In the longer term the technology could be used to introduce pricing on all roads, with the price varying according to the time of day, direction of travel and the level of congestion.

Drivers would use the internet to check all their payments on a single bill. They would choose whether the bill showed where they had travelled or simply the amounts they had paid.

Read moreNational road toll devices to be tested by drivers next year

U.S. Airstrike Reported to Hit Afghan Wedding


Afghan men examined a house that was allegedly destroyed by a U.S. airstrike Tuesday.
Humayoun Shiab/European Pressphoto Agency

KABUL, Afghanistan – An airstrike by United States-led forces killed 40 civilians and wounded 28 others at a wedding party in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Wednesday. The casualties included women and children, the officials said.


The New York Times

The United States military and Afghan authorities were investigating the reports about the latest attack, the American military said in a statement, but it gave no confirmation of the strikes or any death toll.

The reports of the strike, in a region that has become a renewed front line in the battle against the Taliban, showed the raw tensions between the United States and Afghanistan over the toll suffered by civilians in the war, and came just hours after the election of Barack Obama as the next American president.

The reports recall an assault in August in western Afghanistan that was initially disputed by the United States, in which an American gunship killed at least 30 civilians. On Wednesday, at a news conference called to congratulate Mr. Obama, President Hamid Karzai said his first request to Mr. Obama would be “to end the civilian casualties.”

Read moreU.S. Airstrike Reported to Hit Afghan Wedding

Guardians of the unborn

Women in the Netherlands who are deemed by the state to be unfit mothers should be sentenced to take contraception for a prescribed period of two years, according to a draft bill before the Dutch parliament.

The proposed legislation would further punish parents who defied it by taking away their newborn infant. “It targets people who have been the subject of judicial intervention because of their bad parenting,” explained the author of the bill Marjo Van Dijken of the socialist PvDA. “If someone refuses the contraception and becomes pregnant, the child must be taken away directly after birth.”

Read moreGuardians of the unborn

Medvedev Confronts U.S. on Missile Shield After Obama Victory

Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) — Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev said he would deploy new missiles in Europe, confronting the U.S. on the day Barack Obama was declared the winner in America’s presidential election.

Medvedev said he would place a short-range missile system designed to carry conventional warheads in Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad, wedged between Poland and Lithuania.

“An Iskander rocket system will be deployed in the Kaliningrad region to neutralize the missile-defense system if necessary,” Medvedev said, referring to U.S. plans to place elements of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Medvedev blamed the U.S. for failure to coordinate its economic policy with other countries so that a “local” crisis turned into a global one, leading to “a fall on the markets of the whole planet.” He also renewed his assertion that the U.S. provoked the war between Russia and Georgia in August.

Read moreMedvedev Confronts U.S. on Missile Shield After Obama Victory

Hamas fires rockets at Israel after 6 killed


Palestinians carry a man who was wounded in an Israeli army raid, into hospital in Deir El Bahlah in the central Gaza Strip, early Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008. Israel launched an airstrike on Gaza early Wednesday after its troops clashed with Hamas militants who fired mortars into Israel, leaving six Palestinians dead. It was the first battle since a June truce mostly quieted violence in the volatile territory.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Hamas militants pounded southern Israel with a barrage of rockets Wednesday, hours after Israeli forces killed six gunmen in a fresh bout of violence that threatened to unravel a five-month-old truce that has brought relief to both Gaza and southern Israel.

The clashes began late Tuesday after the Israeli forces burst into Gaza to destroy what the army said was a tunnel being dug near the border to abduct Israeli troops.

Despite the outbreak of violence, both Israeli authorities and officials with Gaza’s Hamas government said they wanted to restore the calm that has largely prevailed over the past five months.

After the Israeli incursion, Hamas gunmen battled Israeli forces and Gaza residents reported the sound of explosions, gunshots and helicopter fire. One Hamas fighter was killed, prompting a wave of mortar fire at nearby Israeli targets.

An Israeli airstrike then killed five Hamas militants preparing to fire mortar shells. Hamas responded with the barrage of rockets.

Read moreHamas fires rockets at Israel after 6 killed

Israel launches deadly airstrike in Gaza


Medical workers wheel a wounded man to hospital in the central Gaza strip on Tuesday after clashes.

GAZA CITY (CNN) — Israel launched an airstrike Tuesday night on southern Gaza after clashing with Hamas militants in central Gaza, Palestinian sources and Israel Defense Forces said.

Four were killed in the airstrike, which occurred east of Khan Younis, Palestinian sources said. They said a drone and an apache helicopter could be seen.

Read moreIsrael launches deadly airstrike in Gaza

Obama Is Elected 44th U.S. President, First African-American to Win Office

Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) — Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States, opening a new chapter in the country’s history as the first African-American to hold the world’s most important job.

The Illinois senator capped his 21-month quest with a sweeping electoral victory that also enhanced the Democrats’ majority in Congress and marked the end of an era of Republican dominance in Washington.

Obama crossed the requisite threshold of 270 electoral votes to defeat Republican rival John McCain, when television networks declared him the winner in the state of California.

That gave the Democratic nominee at least 275 electoral votes, according to the projections, and his tally is likely to grow as more results come in and states that backed Republican President George W. Bush in 2004 switch sides.

Obama’s victory, along with Democratic gains in congressional contests, puts him and his party in firm control of the federal government for the first time since the early 1990s. That gives Obama an opportunity to turn his victory into a pivotal moment in the country’s political history.

Read moreObama Is Elected 44th U.S. President, First African-American to Win Office

Missing ballots, balky machines hamper voting in key states

Florida lines
Voters wait in line to cast their ballots in Orlando, Florida today.

Voters in Florida, Ohio and Virginia are among those reporting long lines and problems with ballots and voting machines. Voting-rights groups sound the alarm.

Reporting from Miami and Washington — Heavy voter turnout overwhelmed polling places in the key battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, prompting tens of thousands of complaints about long waits, missing ballots and malfunctioning voting machines.

Read moreMissing ballots, balky machines hamper voting in key states

RBS unveils capital plan as writedown hits £6.1bn

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) today revealed that the value of its assets has fallen by £6.1 billion this year as it “regretfully” laid out plans to raise £19.7 billion to prop up its balance sheet.

Related article: Rescued RBS to pay millions in bonuses

RBS hopes to raise £15 billion through offering new ordinary shares to investors at 65.5p each, above today’s share price, which fell slightly to 64.8p.The offer is fully underwritten by the Government so, if investors choose not to buy stock, the Treasury will buy the shares, using taxpayers’ funds.

The lender, which raised £12 billion through a rights issue only four months ago, also said today that it will issue £5 billion in preference shares to the Government, which will buy the stock using taxpayers’ money.

Preference shares mean the Government must be repaid before the bank may pay dividends to shareholders.

RBS revealed this morning that it had written down the value of its assets by a further £206 million in the third quarter, adding to the £5.9 billion it declared in the first six months of 2008. The potential third-quarter writedown of £1.2 billion was reduced to £206 million by an accounting change.

Read moreRBS unveils capital plan as writedown hits £6.1bn

France threatens to seize banks, German bail-outs escalate

The French state has threatened to seize control of the country’s banks and fire top staff unless they do their part to stabilise the economy by stepping up lending to companies in need.

“The banks have got to open up credit to business: they have the means to do it,” said prime minister Francois Fillon, accusing lenders of hoarding cash. “We don’t think the banks are stepping up to task as necessary. We can withdraw the credit that we have extended to them under the state’s contract with the banks, and that will put them in difficulty. At that moment the question arises whether we should take an equity stake, change their managers, and assume control over their strategy.”

Speaking on French television, he warned: “Broadly speaking, we’ll be able to judge over the next 10 days whether they are playing the game as they should, or not.”

Read moreFrance threatens to seize banks, German bail-outs escalate

Commerzbank accepts €8.2bn state funding

Commerzbank, Germany’s second-largest bank, today said it would accept a €8.2bn (£6.44bn) capital injection from the state and a further €15bn in guaranteed funding.

Commerz, which is taking over Dresdner, its smaller rival, said it had agreed to pay no dividends for the next two years. It will also scrap all boardroom bonuses in 2009 and 2010 and cap its chief executive’s salary at €500,000.

The bank made its moves as it reported a net loss of €285m in the third quarter when it was heavily exposed to both Lehman Brothers, the bankrupt US investment bank, and Iceland, the virtually insolvent country.

It said it made a combined operating loss of almost €900m through these two events. In the first nine months its pre-tax earnings of €2.3bn a year ago shrank to €419m.

Germany’s private sector banks have been under considerable pressure from chancellor Angela Merkel to join her government’s €500bn stabilisation package, with the biggest, Deutsche, creating a storm by saying it would be “ashamed” to take part.

Read moreCommerzbank accepts €8.2bn state funding

Seoul earmarks $11bn to stir demand

South Korea on Monday unveiled an $11bn stimulus package to boost stagnant domestic demand in Asia’s fourth-largest economy as export growth slows amid the global downturn.

Data released on Monday showed that exports, the main growth driver, grew at the slowest pace in 13 months in October, hit by falling demand from China.

Read moreSeoul earmarks $11bn to stir demand

U.S. to Borrow Record This Quarter to Finance Deficit

Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. Treasury more than tripled its planned debt sales for this quarter to help finance a 2009 budget deficit that bond dealers advising the department estimate may swell to almost $1 trillion.

Borrowing needs are expected to rise to $550 billion in the three months to Dec. 31, compared with the $142 billion predicted in July, the Treasury said in a statement in Washington. That follows a $530 billion record in the July-September quarter.

The worsening credit crisis and sluggish economy are straining the country’s finances and will leave the winner of tomorrow’s U.S. presidential election facing the worst budget shortfall on record next year. The Treasury is scheduled to announce in two days plans to expand debt sales to fund the gap.

“The U.S. Treasury faces an unprecedented financing need,” said Goldman Sachs analyst Ed McKelvey, echoing a similar comment last week by Anthony Ryan, the Treasury’s acting undersecretary for domestic finance.

The Treasury acknowledged the fiscal year 2009 deficit is likely to be far above the $482 billion projected in July, citing a new survey of its primary dealers. The financial firms told the Treasury they expect a $988 billion shortfall for the current fiscal year, which began Aug. 1.

The department didn’t release its own estimate for the coming deficit, in keeping with its usual practice. The department did announce more than $1 trillion in borrowing that is taking place between July and December.

Read moreU.S. to Borrow Record This Quarter to Finance Deficit

Palin caught out by ‘President Sarkozy’

Canadian radio comedian persuades Republican vice-presidential hopeful he is French leader in prank phone call

Perhaps Sarah Palin should have realised something was amiss when the caller purporting to be France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, referred to “my special American adviser, Johnny Halliday”.

Later in the call, maybe, she could have guessed that even the real Sarkozy would be unlikely to refer to his wife, Carla Bruni, as “so hot in bed” or talk about a supposed mutual love of hunting by saying “to take away a life, that is so fun”.

The would-be vice president was, of course, speaking to Canadian comedian Marc-Antoine Audette, part of a radio duo who have made prank calls to a series of world leaders over the years.

Palin didn’t give away anything of real note – except perhaps an ambition to be president herself “maybe in eight years” – or suffer any real embarrassments.

It is interesting, however, to hear Palin’s eager tone of voice and exaggerated politeness (“We love you! Thanks you for talking to me!”) which seemed to go beyond courtesy into sheer fandom.

Maybe Palin – like many others – still can’t believe the position she’s in right now.

Peter Walker
Sunday November 02 2008 10.05 GMT

Source: The Guardian

In 6 lousy weeks, all of the total credit in the banking system created by the Fed since 1913 was almost instantly doubled! We’re freaking doomed!

Nightmares of Financial Misery


“But this monetary expansion thing is the stuff of nightmares, too, and one day soon you will wake up screaming in the middle of the night, bathed in sweat, jolted out of a nightmare of financial misery and suffering that is all but unimaginable…”


The astonishing news to me was that the Fed has pledged to plow $540 billion into the money market, which is composed of very short-term debt, which is, as I already said, pretty astonishing since the total money market is about $3.5 trillion, and which has had (according to Doug Noland in his Credit Bubble Bulletin) “a y-t-d expansion of $423bn, or 16.8% annualized”. And in an odd bit of symmetry to the just-pledged $540 billion, he goes on to report that “Money Fund assets have posted a one-year increase of $566bn (19.1%).” And now they need half a trillion dollars? Half a freaking trillion?

And since we are talking about things that are astonishing, get this: Total Fed Credit jumped by another $63.2 billion last week! I was going to try and add up the astonishing amounts of credit that the Fed has cooked up in the past month or so, but I am so Scared Out Of My Freaking Mind (SOOMFM) at what I might find that my hands are shaking too much to handle a calculator. That’s my excuse, anyway, and it’s a lot of work, besides.

Read moreIn 6 lousy weeks, all of the total credit in the banking system created by the Fed since 1913 was almost instantly doubled! We’re freaking doomed!

Rescued RBS to pay millions in bonuses

RBS ‘making monkeys’ out of the government, says Vince Cable


Royal Bank of Scotland. Photograph: Newscast

Royal Bank of Scotland, which is being bailed out with £20bn of taxpayers’ money, has signalled it is preparing to pay bonuses to thousands of staff despite government pledges to crack down on City pay.

The bank has set aside £1.79bn to cover “staff costs” – including discretionary bonuses – at its investment banking division for the first six months of the year alone. The same division caused a £5.9bn writedown that wiped out the bank’s profits for the same period.

The government had demanded that boardroom directors at RBS should not receive bonuses this year and the chief executive, Sir Fred Goodwin, is walking away without a pay-off. But below boardroom level, RBS and other groups are preparing to pay bonuses to investment bankers who continue to generate profits.

Read moreRescued RBS to pay millions in bonuses

Libya ‘ready to host Russian naval base’

MOSCOW, October 31 (RIA Novosti) – Libya is willing to host a Russian naval base as a means of security against any possible U.S. attack, a Russian business daily said on Friday.

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi will pay an official visit to Russia at the invitation of President Dmitry Medvedev from October 31 to November 2.

The Kommersant newspaper cited a source close to the preparations for the visit as saying that the Libyan leader was planning to raise the naval base issue during talks with the Russian leadership.

“The Libyan leader believes that a Russian military presence in the country would prevent possible attacks by the United States, which despite numerous Libyan attempts to amend bilateral relations is not in a hurry to embrace Colonel Qaddafi,” the paper said.

Read moreLibya ‘ready to host Russian naval base’

Colombia killings cast doubt on war against insurgents


President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, center, accompanied by Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, left, and Chief Army Commander Freddy Padilla, in Bogota on Wednesday. (Miguel Angel Solano/Reuters)

SOACHA, Colombia: Julian Oviedo, a 19-year-old construction worker in this gritty patchwork of slums, told his mother on March 2 that he was going to talk to a man about a job offer. A day later, Oviedo was shot and killed by army troops about 560 kilometers to the north. He was classified as a subversive and registered as a combat kill.

Colombia’s government, the Bush administration’s top ally in Latin America, has been buffeted by the disappearance of Oviedo and dozens of other young, impoverished men and women whose cases have come to light. Some were vagrants, some were street vendors or manual laborers. But their fates were often the same: They were catalogued as insurgents or criminal gang members and killed by the armed forces.

Prosecutors and human rights researchers are investigating hundreds of such deaths and disappearances, contending that the Colombian security forces are murdering civilians and making it look as if they were killed in combat, often by planting weapons on or near their bodies or dressing the corpses in guerrilla fatigues.

With soldiers under intense pressure in recent years to register combat kills to earn promotions and benefits like time off and extra pay, reports of civilian killings are climbing, prosecutors and researchers said, pointing to a grisly facet of this country’s long internal war against leftist insurgencies.

Read moreColombia killings cast doubt on war against insurgents

Beginning of Hyperinflation

Hard Cash Investor Walter K. Eichelburg Sees Hard Times


After the panic in the financial markets, the government might panic also ensues. (Rolf van Melis/Pixelio)

GERMANY-Hard-Cash investor Walter K. Eichelburg, predicted the mortgage bubble bust and insolvency of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the United States in an early 2007 Epoch Times interview. He made himself available for another interview with The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times (ET): Mr. Eichelburg, what can we learn from today’s crisis?

Read moreBeginning of Hyperinflation

Chinese shoppers shocked by tainted food scandal

BEIJING, China (CNN) — Consumers in Beijing’s malls and shops are shunning the milk and poultry sections — for good reasons.

Poultry products, including eggs, may be contaminated with melamine through animal food.
Poultry products, including eggs, may be contaminated with melamine through animal food.

They are shocked and scared by the news headlines: some food produced in China is tainted with melamine.

“Of course I’m worried,” says a woman shopping in Nanxiaojie Market. Stop eating eggs? “That’s not possible,” she tells CNN. “If there’s a problem with eggs, it should be solved fundamentally.”

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao says China will take steps to win back consumers.

Read moreChinese shoppers shocked by tainted food scandal

Florida’s Freedom Bank Is 17th in U.S. to Be Closed This Year

Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) — Freedom Bank of Bradenton, Florida, became the 17th U.S. bank seized by regulators this year as the deepest housing slump since the Great Depression triggers record foreclosures and mounting losses.

Freedom, with $287 million in assets and $254 million in deposits, was shut yesterday by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was named receiver. Fifth Third Bancorp of Cincinnati will assume the deposits and buy $36 million of assets, the FIDC said. Freedom’s four offices will open Nov. 3 as Fifth Third branches.

Read moreFlorida’s Freedom Bank Is 17th in U.S. to Be Closed This Year